There aren't many kinds of animals that have a lifespan as long as that of humans. For pet owners, that means we have to learn to say goodbye to loyal companions, sometimes many times over the course of our lives. Even if we first experience the loss of a family pet as children, for some of us it doesn't seem to get easier. There are ways to cope, and one of them is to accept that grieving is something that has to happen, and that it takes time.
Sometimes, feelings of guilt make things harder. This guilt can arise from wondering whether we should be quite so upset by the death of a pet, when perhaps the loss of a family member didn't seem to hurt so much. In reality, though, our pets are always there for us, and usually completely dependent on us. The bond we have with them is uncomplicated by the issues that affect our family relationships.
Following the loss of a family pet, it's helpful to try to remember that the time will come when you'll look back on your memories of your pet with joy, and laugh about the times you had. When that time arrives, you'll be glad you have photos or other keepsakes - perhaps a toy or collar.
People with more than one pet often find that devoting their energy to the surviving animals helps; pets can experience loss and sadness as well, and taking them for walks, or just playing, can reassure them that things are going to be OK.
Never worry that what you feel after the loss of a family pet is inappropriate. You feel how you feel, and nobody else's opinion on the subject is valid.
If you've had to cope with the death of a much-loved pet, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Words of encouragement are always welcome, and you may find that sharing your feelings helps in the grieving process.